AUSTIN (KXAN) — For high school athletes not wanting to let their teammates down, it can be tempting to try in stay in the game after suffering a concussion. But their eagerness to continue playing could keep them out of the game in the long-run.
A study published in the journal Pediatrics followed 69 athletes who suffered concussions during a range of sports like football, ice hockey, soccer and volleyball.
Athletes who continued to play took twice as long to recover, 44 days compared to 22 days. In the days after the injury, those players demonstrated significantly worse verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction speed compared to players taken out of the game.
“You put yourself at risk for a second head trauma,” said Ryan McCorkle M.D., an emergency medicine physician who practices at St. David’s Medical Center. “But also you’re continuing to exert yourself, you’re not giving your body the rest it needs to recover from that initial concussion.”
Christian Magana, a senior at St. Michael’s Catholic School in South Austin, is one concussion away from having to quit football. He got his first concussion in 9th grade, and another during his junior year. After his second concussion, Magana somehow passed a baseline test on the sideline and went back into the game.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing in the game, I was just kind of going through the motions. I had someone next to me telling me what to do,” remembers Magana.
Not only was he done for the season, but a doctor ordered him to stay in dark room for days to rest his brain.
“Trying to get a teenager away from all screens, from music and being on any type of device is next to impossible. But you have do it,” said Magana’s mother, Tiffany Sims. “It’s just scary, they only have one brain and you really want to protect that, but at the same time every sport has dangers to it,” said Sims.
Now she wonders whether going back in the game caused more damage to her son’s brain.
“Hindsight 20/20, if you’d come out right when it happened, it might have been like the first time, a mild concussion — you would’ve recovered in a week or two. But this ended up being almost a three-week recovery,” said Sims.
At St. Michael’s every athlete does a pre-season baseline test to assess a player’s brain function. If trainers suspect a player has a concussion during the season, they’ll do another test to try and determine how severe the trauma was.
Dr. McCorkle says in general developing brains are more at risk, and that it’s critical for athletes to stop playing immediately after a head injury.